The holidays are a joyful time, with turkey on the table and the smell of baked goods wafting through the warm house. The thought alone is comforting for some.
For soldiers fighting overseas, the same holiday feeling is out of reach.
Operation Yellow Ribbon will be hosting a cookie drive on Saturday, Dec. 7 to collect homebaked goods and store-bought favorites.
“We want to give soldiers a taste of home and remind them that they’re not forgotten,” said Dave Silver, president of Operation Yellow Ribbon.
OYR is a non-profit organization that prepares and sends care packages, in addition to organizing welcome-home ceremonies for those serving in Operation Enduring Freedom.
“We do this for the people who serve our country so we don’t have to. We have the freedom and we exercise the freedom, to support them,” Silver said. “It’s our job to welcome them home. We’re most thankful for their service for what they do and we’re thankful for all they do for us.”
The operation is always collecting supplies for the next round of packages to be sent. OYR also accepts candy still sealed, in addition to items listed on its website.
“We want people to bake their favorite treats or buy their favorite baked item to send out to the troops,” Silver said.
The goodies are carefully packaged by OYR and sent overseas via priority mail on Dec. 9 with expected arrival one to two weeks following shipment.
“When you make it yourself and put your heart into it, it makes the difference,” Silver said.
“We think this is a special way to add their personal touch to treat the troops. This is a way you can feel more in touch for the people that serve our country.”
OYR receives letters and emails from soldiers who have returned home, and still remember how the packages from home affected them.
“You know you’re doing the right thing when they remember you and they’re reaching out afterward. It’s pretty amazing,” Silver said.
OYR is run by volunteers and supported by donations made by the community. Currently, the organization is pulling from funds normally used to ship items to purchase wish list items, which can be found on the site.
“We take anything across the board, specifically anything we take for granted here,” Silver said. “We accept candy, baby wipes for hygiene purposes, Girl Scout cookies are coming up soon. Last year we received more than 1,000 boxes, which we sent overseas.”
Silver is constantly pleasantly surprised how supportive the South Jersey community is in celebrating and supporting the troops.
“The whole South Jersey community chips in and does what they can,” Silver said. “The Ravtiz’s are our biggest supporters, and other businesses have donated hundreds of dollars to OYR as well.”
According to Silver, a Mt. Laurel Starbucks manager is planning something for the troops soon.
“The way I look at it, it’s a wave and it keeps building. You expect the wave to break and hit the shore, but it doesn’t, it keeps building and building,” Silver said. “The support from the community makes you want to do more and it’s amazing.”
According to Silver, OYR will continue to host welcome-home greetings and greet the soldiers with rock star “welcome homes” and raise funds to solicit donated items to pack and ship.
“Everyone is special in South Jersey the way they support our troops and support OYR,” Silver said. “It’s wonderful to see the community, all ages and groups, send things to our troops.”